I was awoken this morning not by my alarm clock or iPhone, but rather by my lovely wife. She said I needed to come downstairs and check out this “Nigerian Spammer.” Ummm… OK, honey, you’re waking me up to read a spam e-mail?!
No, this was a live person IMing me, asking for $2,000 immediately.
Here is the transcript of the conversation:
Note: the first few lines are my wife really believing this is her cousin
u there ?
me: yep – hi
what are you doing up so early?
sp*****18: Please I Need Your Uregentely Help Right Now If You Can
me: for what…
Sent at 6:57 AM on Thursday
sp*****18: I’m in a litle bit hurry for a trip caled Tinapa in a country called Nigeria
Sent at 6:58 AM on Thursday
sp*****18: Be hold getting there i was been rob in a Hotel where i lodge all my Bag and wallet was been stollen by some arm robber here
Now i don’t even have any money here with me to pay with the Hotel bills since i am howing the hotel here
please if you can hnelp me out with a little money justa about 2000$
I promise when back to the state i will pay you back immediately
Sent at 7:02 AM on Thursday
sp*****18: You there ?
me: Have you talked to mom about it?
she raise me just 100$ yesterday
but this money wasen’t anough for me
me: That’s not enough
sp*****18: still need up to 2000$ to came back to the state
since i have been to the Air Port for my Flight back to the state
me: You need to get back.
sp*****18: but they told me that i can not come ba ck to the state now since my Valid International Pass Port was been stolen by some robber
also they is no way i can get this robber to find out the passport
me: That is worrisome
sp*****18: so they said another valid passport will cost me 1200$ my flight will cost 700$ upon which i need to pay with the hotel bills so that i can come back to the state immediately
Please i need you to help me out now if you can ok
I really promise i will pay back when back to the state before on monday
is that ok by you ?
me: You need that money
Maybe you can sell some of my paintings?
They are worth a lot of money
Have you tried begging for money at the hotel & airport?
Strangers can be kind.
sp*****18: i don’t no any one here
i can’t Beg here no one will Help out please help me i will pay back asap i get to the state please
me: Yes. You can sell my paintings, they are beautiful.
People will pay a lot of money for them
I paint pictures of llamas.
sp*****18: Don’t you have any money with you there ?
I’m not with any paintings here
me: I’ve spent most of money of drugs.
Mom has money.
You need to get back quickly.
Especially with the bad things happening out there.
I am so worried.
I am about to cry.
sp*****18: I don’t want to put Mom in Much Presure
Please don’t cry
I have been praying for the God Lord to stennty me so that i can find my way out of here ASAP
me: I am putting money in an envelope now.
sp*****18: How Much did you have with you now ?
me: But it is for Santa Claus so he can buy me presents for Christmas.
It’s all in quarters. I’d have to count it.
That will take a while.
Let me eat breakfast quickly and I will count them.
I will let you know how much money I have
You need help.
sp*****18: How Much is’t
Sent at 7:18 AM on Thursday
sp*****18: if i got closs to 1000$ from you now i can get my self risk back to the state
me: It is in quarters (coins) in a sock
I will have to count how much $ is it
I will let you know in a half hour.
What is your address?
sp*****18: you mean the Hotel address ?
me: Where can I send my quarters to you?
You need help.
sp*****18: i can only received money here via Western Union
this is the only means the west africa nigeria can only received money
me: Do they accept quarters?
Should I take them out of my sock?
sp*****18: i can only get you the western union information where you can send me the money
i don’t know if they will accept quarters
me: Oh dear.
I will email you later on today and tell you how much $$ I have.
I must go and shower.
I stink so bad the cats are avoiding me.
sp*****18: just to let you know i have closs to 8000$ in my account in the state
me: That is a lot of money.
I like money.
I am thinking of how many socks I can buy with $8000.
sp*****18: So don’t worry about How Much you wanna give to any one i will pay you back when back to the state ok
me: That is ok.
I need to count these quarters.
sp*****18: please i need 2000$ to get my seelf out of here asap
me: I will tell you how much $$ I have, you tell me how I can get it to you.
I must bathe now.
I am very worried.
sp*****18: or if you can come up with 1000$ i will refund back this money in double times to you ok
me: I will send you every quarter I have in my sock!
You need help!
sp*****18: please i just need your help now asap before the time roons out of day
me: OK, stay strong. I will tell you my count ASAP.
I am going to shower now. I miss you.
I will e-mail you from the shower.
Goodbye. Stay strong! You are strong!
sp*****18: Should i provide you with the Hotel Management information where you can send the money through the Western Union ?
Sure enough, within two minutes, the full Western Union account information was e-mailed.
You can see I had a bit of fun with this gentleman (c:
Still not sure how this happened (the owner doesn’t seem to “get” what’s happening), but the lesson to be learned here is to safeguard your email password! Some might say: “Oh, it’s just an e-mail password. I can just sign up for another account.”
Sadly, it can get much worse than that.
This hacker now has all of my wife’s cousin’s contacts’ information, access to every email she’s received & sent, sensitive personal information, passwords to other sites, etc. Plus, they have likely changed the e-mail password so that the true owner cannot even access her own account again.
Oh, and do you use Google Calendar? Yup, they have 100% access. Google Docs? Every document, spreadsheet and presentation there for the taking. Run a web site? Well, think about how you feel about your AdWords and/or AdSense account information. Not to mention Picasa, your BlogSpot blog, etc.
Finally, this information may have been gleaned as a result of a keylogger installed on your computer, similar to the one Philadelphia TV news anchor Larry Mendte used to gain access to Alycia Lane’s e-mail. These programs run unnoticed in the background and capture every key you type, usually sending the information to a remote server overseas.
Your GMail account might only be the first attempt at accessing your personal information. The next? “Watching” you login to, say, eBay or PayPal. Or Amazon, then purchasing something with your credit card. Or, say… your bank.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself:
- Use strong passwords. Many sites have a “password strength meter” that will tell you if you’re using a password that is tough to crack. Every web site password you use should be at least 6-8 characters (depending), not contain English words, and contain at least 1 number and ideally an special character ( #, $, !, etc.)
I suggest that if you’re using the name of your pet, or something similar, Go change it now.
- Never use the “Find your friends via email” feature on social web sites, where they ask you for your full webmail username & password, in an effort to find people you know on the site.
Despite the disclaimers, there is zero way of knowing who on the other side has access to this information, and for how long. Some site don’t even encrypt the information, meaning that can be intercepted in transmission at any point.
- Always maintain an up-to-date virus scanner (yes, even on a Mac) and run weekly full scans. If you don’t have one, get one, even a free one.
- Stop using Internet Explorer. Simply surf with a better, faster, more secure browser like Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome, and you’ll inherently reduce your risk of infection.